There’s a lot of articles and blog posts on the traditions surrounding Tsagaan Sar – Mongolian Lunar New Year – but what does it actually mean for local Mongolians? Here, in their own words, is what it means to a few of our female Mongolian trip assistants.
In the words of Amaraa: ‘It’s a great holiday for Mongolian’s to welcome spring having passed through the harsh winter.’ Following in similar words is Zumbee ‘ It is Mongolia’s biggest traditional ceremony. It symbolises the first day of spring when winter ends and temperatures begin to get warmer.’
But as well as marking the change from winter to the early beginnings of spring, Tuya mentions that Tsagaan Sar is also considered a ‘very special time to see relatives’. It has a similar meaning for Unuruu; ‘It is a time for family reunions, for family bonding, respecting elders and having a big traditional party. Also, it is a big chance for relatives to meet and talk about the year just finished. Unuruu also mentioned that ‘one of the nicest parts is serving her family’s handmade buuz (dumplings) and other meals and welcoming new additions to the family – whether that be a baby, brother-in-law or sister-in-law.’
It is also one of the oldest festivals celebrated in Mongolia. As Mishka says, ‘It is a very respectful holiday, especially for the younger generation. As we celebrate Tsagaan Sar, it gives us a connection with the traditions and customs of our ancestors and how these were inherited by the future generations. It is a chance to meet close and far relatives and meeting newborns in our whole family.’
It falls on the second new moon after the winter solstice. As Baaska says, New Year’s Eve is known as the ‘black day’ (bituunii udur) because ‘there is no moon’. As the first crescent of the new moon rises in the sky, Tsagaan Sar begins (New Year’s Day is known as Shiniin Negiin) and ‘celebrates the white days and white month. It is about acknowledging the old year having passed and being ready to face a good new white year. For Tsagaan Sar, all people should stay healthy, friendly helpful and together.’
Pujee follows with ‘Tsagaan Sar is the first day of spring and the last day of winter. It is a very special holiday for Mongolians – our national holiday that we have been celebrating for many hundreds of years. The best thing about Tsagaan Sar is that it provides a good opportunity to do something with and be together with our families. Before Tsagaan Sar we have to clean all things including our home, clothes and our mind. We have to make boov (traditional Mongolian bread – basically biscuits made of flour) – and dumplings. We make these together as friends and family. Each family member has an important task to do something. For example, some people prepare the flour, other the dumplings and often the children count how many dumplings they made etc. Tsagaan Sar allows Mongolian people to spend a lot of time with their family.’
And one final tradition mentioned by Pujee to follow during Tsagaan Sar – ‘people don’t argue with each other. It is forbidden during Tsagaan Sar.’ As Tsagaan Sar is celebrated by Mongolians all previous things pass away with the previous year. As the new crescent moon rises so the new year starts – positive and white (or clean). During Tsagaan Sar you should not be angry, greedy or sad. You clear your mind and spirit of all negative things and open it up to pure clean positive thoughts.
If you’re interested in experiencing Tsagaan Sar with Eternal Landscapes you’ll find more details on our Mongolia Winter Tours. We look forward to welcoming you.
Jess @ Eternal Landscapes